The Harry Potter book series is the best-selling of all time. It’s crazy to think about how many people have read the books and seen the Harry Potter movies.
Many people travel specifically to Harry Potter destinations in the United Kingdom, like the Warner Bros Studio Tour just north of London, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, or the Harry Potter train in Scotland.
I knew there were a lot of Harry Potter locations in London, but I was surprised to learn there are Harry Potter Porto sights. Let me tell you about the connection between Harry Potter and Porto and the places that Harry Potter fans must visit.
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Harry Potter and Porto
I didn’t even realize until I checked into my hotel that Porto and Harry Potter have a connection. Diogo, who works at the front desk at the Grand Hotel Porto, where I was staying, told me that JK Rowling actually was living here teaching English when she started writing the books. It was a dark and painful period of her life as her mother had passed away and house was burgarlized just before she moved.
It’s understandable she rarely talks about her time in Porto. For this reason, it’s hard to know for sure exactly which elements of the Harry Potter saga were inspired by her experiences in Porto. Even if it is debatable about how much Porto influenced the Harry Potter books, it is interesting to visit the sights.
You can visit these spots on your own, like we did, or take a Porto Harry Potter tour with a local expert like this one.
Note: Harry Potter was never filmed in Porto.
Harry Potter Porto Spot #1: Majestic Cafe
The Majestic Café, where it is rumored that JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, is less than a block from our hotel. Many experts don’t believe that she started writing the books at the café mainly because it is an expensive place. It’s possible that she visited the Majestic Café Porto and may have worked on the book there for a while, but it’s not the kind of place you would sit for hours and write.
Majestic Cafe opened it’s doors as the Elite Cafe back in 1921. The beautiful Art Nouveau style building was designed by the architect João Queiroz. The most influential figures in Porto became regulars at the cafe. The Elite Cafe name did not fit in well with the atmosphere at the time in Porto because of sentiments with the monarchy, so the name was changed to Majestic Cafe.
From 1992-1994, the Majestic Cafe was closed for restoration. Today, after nearly 100 years, it is still popular and stands as one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in Porto.
Like a lot of other Harry Potter fans, I took a picture outside. Then, I peeked inside the cafe. It looked like a fancy place with lovely woodwork. When we stopped by around 10 am on a Wednesday and there was no wait, but we had already eaten a lovely breakfast at the Grande Hotel Porto. I have read that there can be long lines, so you may have to wait depending on the time you arrive. They are open from 9:30 am to midnight, Monday through Saturday.
Harry Potter Porto Spot #2: Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is another Harry Potter Porto location. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful bookstores in Portugal, some might say in the world. The Lello brothers opened the Porto bookstore in 1906! The outside façade is a neo-gothic style with figures representing art and science. The interior was designed by Xavier Esteves and is even more impressive.
JK Rowling frequented the Porto bookstore and rumor has it that the staircase inspired the staircases at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, that is debatable because in Hogwarts the flights of stairs are straight, while Lello’s are round. You can imagine the Livraria Lello inspiring her though. It is atmospheric and just the kind of location that would fit in the Harry Potter world.
We arrived at the Lello bookstore just before it opened at 10 am and found a line at least a block long. I should have expected something tied to Harry Potter would be popular! Unfortunately, we did not have time to join the line to go inside the Porto library. I could peer through the window and see the staircase. If you would like to go inside the Harry Potter bookstore, I would recommend buying a ticket online in advance. You can buy a timed entry ticket for €5.50.
Check out the video below to see more of the inside of the bookshop.
Harry Potter Porto Spot #3: Porto University
Porto University is one of the oldest and most significant universities in Portugal and is located in a beautiful building. Some people believe that the Hogwarts uniforms that the children wear are modeled after the ones from the Porto University.
The uniform for Porto University students is black pants or skirts and knee-length capes draped around their shoulders. The cape is supposed to be similar to the Harry Potter school uniform. We walked by the building but didn’t catch a glimpse of any students in uniform.
Note: Christ Church College in Oxford also played a role in the Harry Potter films.
Where to Stay in Porto
When you go to Porto, you will have to fit in seeing these Harry Potter locations along with all the other things to do there. The Grande Hotel Porto is ideal for this. It is centrally located, a block from the market where we started our Porto food tour and close to one of the main Harry Potter locations (Cafe Majestic). The perfect home base for sightseeing generally. After all, if you’re chasing Harry Potter in Porto, why not stay in a beautiful period hotel at the same time?
The Grande Hotel Porto is the second oldest hotel in Porto and has a proud history. This is apparent as soon as you step through the door. The lobby area feels very elegant with beautiful period furniture and this continues throughout the hotel. The dining area is beautiful and our room was very comfortable and nicely decorated with classic pieces. The service at the hotel stood out, everyone was so nice and helpful.
You can read more reviews of the Grande Hotel Porto on Tripadvisor here.
Another Link Between Harry Potter and Portugal
JK Rowling did confirm that Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts and the namesake of Slytherin House, was named after António de Oliveira Salazar, the dictator who ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968. The Slytherin founder wanted to ban all Muggle-born wizards and witches from Hogwart which is not too far off from some of the dictator’s policies.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? Then you need to visit Porto for yourself. Have you visited any locations that have influenced the places in Harry Potter? Do you think Porto was a big Harry Potter inspiration?
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Expert Tips for Seeing Harry Potter Sights in Porto Portugal
- You can do your own Porto Harry Potter tour since the locations are all within walking distance of the city center.
- Buy your tickets to visit the bookstore in advance!
- If you plan on eating at Cafe Majestic in Porto, I would recommend going at off hours to avoid a long wait.
- Keep an eye out for Porto University students in uniforms that look like the Harry Potter Hogwarts uniform.
- You should also make sure you do some port tasting while you are visiting Porto.
Disclosure: We were guests of the Grande Hotel Porto. As always, all opinions are my own.
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